Orthopedic Injuries: Which is It?
The types and treatments of ortho injuries
Orthopedic injuries in children are quite common. Think of the myriad of activities in which many children participate in: riding bikes and scooters, skateboarding, jumping on trampolines, playing in parks and participating in sports, to name a few. It’s no wonder that pediatric orthopedic doctors are plenty busy! Below, we discuss the various types of orthopedic injuries and the care that they require.
A broken bone is likely the first thought that comes to most people’s minds when they hear of orthopedic injuries, and they are a common occurrence in childhood. Fractures of the arm, leg or collarbone often result from impact to the ground (i.e., from playground equipment, bikes, or trampolines) or from colliding with another (i.e., during contact sports). At the end of many bones in a child’s body are growth plates, made of malleable tissue that will eventually turn to solid bone tissue with maturity. These growth plates are prone to bending and breaking since they are not yet hardened. Fractures require immediate medical attention to immobilize and stabilize the fracture. Treatment may require casts, crutches and at times, surgery.
Sprains / Strains
A sprain is an injury to the band of tissue that connects two bones together, while a strain is an injury to a muscle or to the band of tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone. Swelling, pain, redness and bruising are signs of a sprain or strain, in which case an appointment with a doctor for an examination and potential X-ray is advised. Some sprains and strains may only require the RICE method of treatment (rest, ice, compression, elevation) at home.
Injuries of overuse include shin splints, muscle strains and tennis elbow, which cause stress on the body, resulting in inflammation. Most of these injuries can be treated with rest, pain meds, heat or ice, although physical therapy can help speed along efficient recovery. For a child athlete, reiterating the importance of stretching pre- and post- activity is a must.
Dislocations are joint injuries that occur when connected bones separate. They can result when an intense force is put on the joint and can occur in various situations involving movement. Signs include pain, redness, swelling and bruising, although there may also be numbness, weakness, loss of joint function and a visible deformity. Treatment can range anywhere from at-home RICE care to surgery.
Contact sports such as boxing, football and wrestling come with the risk of concussions, a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that demands prompt attention and treatment. In most instances, a neurologist becomes a part of the medical team to assess and monitor neurological health.
Short for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), this type of injury is a common sprain in high-impact sports such as soccer, basketball and football. Having a torn ACL indicates that excessive strain was put on the knee, likely from jumping, colliding or quickly changing momentum or direction.
The range in severity for orthopedic injuries is high, as is the likelihood of children experiencing mobility issues following a moderate to severe injury. In these instances, seeking assessment from a skilled pediatric physical therapist (PT) is a proactive measure to ensure that your child has every opportunity to recover from their injury and has functional movement and range of motion restored.